Family of a Drunk Driving Crash Victim Supports Proposed Iowa Bill

By Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

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By Katie Wiedemann

DUBUQUE, Iowa - One eastern Iowa woman says her daughter would still be alive if Iowa had stricter drunk driving laws.

Proposed legislation in the Iowa Senate could soon make that a reality.

Senator Brian Schoenjahn of Arlington has introduced a bill that would require anyone convicted of drunk driving to get an ignition interlock system.

The ignition interlock system prevents a car from starting if you have alcohol on your breath. Current state law requires an ignition interlock only for repeat offenders and anyone with a Blood Alcohol Content at or above .10 percent.

The new bill would require anyone convicted of drunk driving to have the interlock system for six months. And repeat offenders would need it for at least a year.

Linda Chapman's laughter turned to tears on June 5, 2004, when a drunk driver slammed into a car carrying her daughter, Nicki Chapman 25. The crash killed Nicki and her friend.

Nicki's sister, Jodi said, "They had to search for her purse to get some identification. And that was buried up underneath the dash. "

The drunk driver, Christopher Schwendinger, had a blood alcohol content of an estimated .25 percent. That's nearly 3 times the legal limit.

Police had arrested Schwendinger 7 days earlier, on May 29, 2004, for O-W-I. That arrest was his second offense.

Linda said, "I know Nicki would still be alive. She was killed by a repeat offender. If that would have been in effect 10 years ago. She'd still be here today. "

The Chapman's have since become active members of Mother's Against Drunk Driving. They believe ignition interlock systems are effective, even if a drunk driver has a sober person blow for them.

"The vehicle will time out and have them re-blow. It's not that the car will stop. Instead it will start honking the horn and the lights will flash. Which means they will pull over in traffic and re-blow, " said Linda.

The family is lobbying for tougher laws and asking law-makers to think of families torn apart.

"It's assurance that generations after us are still going to be here and be able to celebrate and go on with their life and not have to deal with what we have, " said Jodi.

Schwendinger got out of prison in 2012. KCRG-TV9 contacted him to comment on this story, but didn't get a response.

A Senate sub-committee will debate the drunk driving bill on Monday.

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